7 Savvy Tips to Shopping Vintage and Small Business This Holiday Season

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Vintage stores and local businesses can provide unique, thrifty last-minute finds for the holidays while also bringing the “feel good” vibes of giving back to the community.

According to a recent survey by LendingTree, 31% of shoppers are expecting to incur debt from holiday shopping, and stretching dollars is a priority this year. With credit card rewards points, you can trade points that have gone unused for cash to stay within your budget for gift giving.

If you don’t have a cache of rewards points handy, try trading in clothing or accessories for cash; vintage stores let you trade in gently-worn clothing, shoes or accessories for cash back or help you save money with quality secondhand deals. After nearly a year of remote work and social distancing, it’s likely some clothing or accessories are gathering dust in your closet and could use a good home.

Beyond saving money, shopping at vintage stores and boutiques can help support local businesses. Small businesses have been hit hard this year by the pandemic, and are having to adapt to online shopping trends to help their customers avoid big crowds.

For those looking for creative, budget-friendly last minute finds, here are seven reasons to shop vintage and small boutiques this season:

Discover sustainable and luxury items

Shopping for luxury items doesn’t have to be a stressful event or blow your entire budget. Vestiaire Collective, an online reseller of luxurious and sustainable fashion, gave LendingTree more insight into luxury secondhand holiday shopping.

“Amidst the pandemic, we’ve seen consumers increasingly choosing to shop secondhand because sustainability has become so important,” a spokesperson from Vestiaire Collective said. “Online resale platforms like Vestiaire Collective have really benefited from this trend, having seen a 97% increase in orders year over year and sustainably produced brands like Vejas and Stella McCartney becoming even more popular with our members.”

Choose quality over fast fashion

The fast fashion market can make it difficult to find a good deal that doesn’t compromise quality. Vintage stores, like The Getup Vintage, show that shopping vintage not only helps save money, but also provides quality that fast fashion can’t easily replicate.

“Unexpected ways shoppers can benefit from vintage stores is the quality for price,” said Kaylan Mitchell, co-owner of The Getup Vintage. “For example, new cashmere sweaters can run in the $200 [to] $400-plus range; whereas a vintage cashmere sweater from the 1950s that has been lovingly cared for and dry cleaned by the shop will run between $50 [and] $100. Plus, it has a superior and unique style compared to anything available in the fast fashion market today!”

The Getup Vintage operates online via Etsy and storefront in Ann Arbor, Mich.

Enjoy the same payment flexibility as large retailers

Oftentimes, people think that a vintage store or boutique doesn’t provide the same payment flexibility as most large retailers. However, The Rabbit Hole debunks that myth as an online vintage boutique that recently implemented AfterPay, allowing shoppers to enjoy both unique styles and flexible payment options.

“To prepare for the holiday season and offer our shoppers more flexibility, The Rabbit Hole recently added Afterpay to our website. Shoppers can now easily check out to pay in installments with no fee (as long as payments are made on time), and enjoy their purchases right away,” said a spokesperson from The Rabbit Hole.

It also offers another modern advance shoppers can use to purchase their vintage wares — the online gift card: “An online vintage store gift card, for example, is a perfect gift for that unique fashionable hard-to-shop-for person in your life.”

These products could make it easier to buy something unexpected this holiday season. “When it comes to uniqueness and quality versus value, nothing beats vintage,” the spokesperson added. “The stigma of ’used’ items of the past is practically nonexistent now, even for gifts.”

Buy gifts that are good for the environment

Eco-consciousness has become more top-of-mind over the years, and the gifts you buy could help offset your carbon footprint. But buying eco-friendly gifts doesn’t have to bust your budget — as I Miss You Vintage Inc., an online vintage store based out of Toronto, showed LendingTree, there are reasons for shoppers to consider vintage to save the earth and save money at the same time.

“The main allure of buying resale is getting high quality brands at off-retail prices. Just because an item is pre-owned doesn’t always mean it is used. Many items come in with tags still on or have been only gently worn, so buyers can find items at up to 70% off retail in excellent condition,” said Julie Yoo, owner of I Miss You Vintage Inc.

“In addition to being easy on the budget, shopping resale is eco-conscious and good for the environment and more shoppers can feel good about supporting sustainable commerce,” said Yoo, adding that resale could also be good for buyers’ own finances. “Another way shoppers can get some extra funds and turn their closet into cash, is by bringing their unwanted pre-owned goods to their local consignment or resale store.”

Find brand new items at consignment

A common misconception is that consignment store inventories are full of used, old clothes. To clear this misunderstanding, My Girlfriend’s Wardrobe, an online consignment store with a storefront in York, Penn., points out the deals shoppers can get at consignment stores.

“My Girlfriend’s Wardrobe has been focusing more on ‘new with tag’ items being consigned and retail lines that we carry that are under $25,” said Alexandria Keener Hammond, owner of My Girlfriend’s Wardrobe. “Our gift guide will also be fully shoppable online for those who aren’t able to make it into the store to shop in person.”

Hammond noted that misconceptions about consignment stores may lead shoppers to miss out on potential options for gifts.

“When people think of consignment or thrift stores they don’t usually think of brand new items, but you will be surprised at what you can find! Visiting a store’s social media pages and website will give you a great idea of what their inventory is like and you can plan your trip to the stores with people in mind,” she added.

Support minority-owned small businesses

This year has highlighted the importance of supporting not only small businesses, but minority-owned small businesses in particular. These businesses could be a good source for those looking to make a positive impact on their community while checking off their gift shopping list. With an online store that connects Native American fashion designers and jewelry artists with shoppers, Beyond Buckskin speaks on how its business model strives to positively impact the community.

“All of our items are handmade or produced in limited quantities. We offer authenticity and uniqueness through items packed with meaning,” said Jessica R. Metcalfe, founder of Beyond Buckskin. “We create gift guides to spotlight the products that we actually give to our moms, dads, daughters, brothers, bosses and so on.”

Metcalfe also emphasized the importance of supporting business in her community and others, and alleviating any difficulties to doing so. “We try our hardest to make it as easy as possible to buy Native American made items and to support minority-owned small businesses,” she said. “I speak frequently about the power of investing in small businesses by merely deciding which companies to support through individual purchasing power. We want people to know that each purchase has a positive impact.”

Feel good about helping a small business thrive

Buying gifts from a small business is an investment that keeps on giving. Not only can shoppers get one-of-kind gifts for their loved ones, but they also provide meaningful community support, as LendingTree learned from Infinite Succulent, an online boutique that connects people to the power of nature.

“The joy of supporting a small business during the holiday season, knowing that everytime you purchase from a small business, maker and artist, they experience positive feelings of joy, excitement and gratitude!” said Rachael Cohen, owner of Infinite Succulent.

Cohen suggested that purchasing from small businesses could yield extra consideration and a personal touch, speaking to her own emphasis on sustainability. “For me personally, I also ensure that I am shipping items as sustainably as possible, forgoing plastic for paper packaging,” she said.

As well, she also noted how buying from small businesses can help develop connections between creators and buyers: “More unexpected benefits can be establishing real relationships with makers and artists whose work you admire — you can even commission unique pieces made especially for you.”